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Saturday, April 21. 2007
A re-post from Dr. Bliss in October, 2006, after the Amish school slaughter. Few are talking about evil, re VT. Why not? Evil deeds deserved to be labelled as such.
In reply to Lawrence Auster, re the lack of moral judgementalism around the Amish murders:
People do not like to talk about evil, especially on TV. Some of them don't believe that evil exists, some of them do not want to sound preachy or morally sanctimonious, and probably some of them just want to avoid the unpleasant subject of evil so the watchers don't switch channels.
I suspect that essentially everyone feels judgemental about the murders, but public moral judgement is out of fashion these days, except against Republicans, where it is always fashionable (as in the Foley story). Probably only a handful of misguided clergy, social workers, and academics truly withhold judgement from heinous acts.
But many bloggers have no problem discussing evil. Dr. Sanity engages the subject regularly, as does Shrinkwrapped and One Cosmos. And we do too, here and here, for example. If the MSM did all that it should, most bloggers could retire.
I hate the term "sociopath," because it sounds more like a medical diagnosis, or one of those phony Soviet diagnoses, than what it truly is, which is a disorder of the soul - an incapacity for guilt or remorse, and a capacity for putting of one's self and one's emotions before all else - above the rules, and above other people. It's a disorder for which there is no doctor's cure. They are built wrong, so they act wrong. They are better known as Evil People.
There are also non-Evil people who have very nasty thoughts, or who do morally wrong things, but that's another subject. This child-killer is the face of evil, disguised as a regular harmless person.
Remarkable to me, in this story, is the speed with which the Amish speak of forgiveness. It comes too soon for it to be convincing to me, but I know what it is they seek. They seek to have God cleanse their souls of hatred because a soul burdened and contaminated by hate or chronic anger is alienated from God and from one's spiritual community. But at the same time, I suspect (but I don't know any Amish) that they would expect to see this guy executed.
Forgiveness is not a gift to a wrong-doer; it's a blessing which, with God's help, is conferred on ourselves to release us from the burden of hatred and vengefulness. It is difficult and it is not natural: it is supernatural soul-maintenance, like an oil change from above.
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The Old Order Amish set up a fund for the children of the man who murdered their children.
Christianity is one powerful force in this world. The religion of insane love. I could not live without it.
M. Scott Peck:
"The People of the Lie"
That'll set one straight - it did me.
Yes, Scott Peck's book on those without conscience has been helpful to many.
"it's a blessing which, with God's help, is conferred on ourselves. Soul-maintenance, like an oil change."
Thank you for this lucid description. It's true.
I once got into a heated debate about forgiveness when someone told me they forgave me for something. I couldn't explain why they had no 'right' to forgive me, but I was adamant that they did not have that right. It finally dawned on me that I did not ask for their forgiveness; therefore, they had no right to give it. If I don't want your forgiveness, you can't give it to me.
I sensed your elucidation of it but could not express it. I went so far as to say, "Who are you to forgive me?"
I've never spoke the words, myself, but I have shown by my actions that love and kindness do more than spouting off phony "I forgive you's" that just put you above those you deign to forgive.
It's God's job to forgive.
"...a capacity for putting of one's self and one's emotions before all else - above the rules, and above other people."
Hmmmm....sounds a bit like identity politics.
"Forgiveness is not a gift to a wrong-doer; it's a blessing which, with God's help, is conferred on ourselves to release us from the burden of hatred and vengefulness."
I don't understand this? Are you saying that because the forgiver benefits that there is no benefit to the forgiven or that God could not intend a benefit for the forgiven? Does God play a zero sum game with His gifts... if I intend My grace for person a, that means it is only an incidental gift for person b?
Have you never needed forgiveness, been grateful for it or seen the need for it in another? When God grants forgiveness, does He do so to unburden Himself without regard for for the fundamental benefit to those He forgives?
Of course, this is a complicated subject, both psychologically and theologically, about which we could both say a great deal more, particularly in the area of how narcissists deal with granting and receiving forgiveness.
Narcissists deny their brokeness and thefefore deny need, so they deny the need for their own forgiveness and feel humiliated by forgiveness, sometimes even thwarting reconcilliation with the person who has been wronged. The narcissist may also deny forgiveness and cling to grievance or forgive 'prematurely,' because the narcissist often denies his or own experience of damage and need for repair. Or the narcissist may forgive in order to belittle another person, locating all of the need and deficiency in the 'forgiven' (who is not really forgiven at all), as Phoenix suggests when he speaks of phony forgiveness.
The subject of granting forgiveness when it isn't asked for is complex and many permutations of forgiver-forgiven dynamics can be discussed, but I would not want to lose is the idea that we need forgiveness, God does grant it and that human beings can grant it as well... sometimes quickly and genuinely in an experience that might lead one to suspect it is defensively driven and sometimes through a much more difficult process. In the case of the former, I believe that it is indeed defensive sometimes, but I believe that at other times, the capacity to forgive quickly is a divine gift that, I am convinced, I have seen it in action.
I'm sure you're familiar with the following passage from Luke: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+7:36-50
It is a reminder of what forgiveness can do for the forgiven. We should not lose sight of this.
A few other things have occurred to me as I've been thinking about the subject of your post over the past few days. One problem with the word evil is that the word is used by many people synonymously with "people I hate."
This is such a commonplace defensive construction that some people are naturally hesitant about using the word evil to describe other people and their actions. Remember that Islamic extremists don't hesitate to refer to America as ‘evil.’ The word has fallen into a certain amount of disrepute because many of the people who use it do so in a transparently dishonest and aggressive manner in the course of defensive splitting and projection. You could say that they make evil use of the word evil, albeit unconsciously. (This doesn’t even begin to deal with the religious charlatans who make dishonest use of the word in a very conscious manner).
Even though lay people can't necessarily name the defensive operations involved, I think many intuitively recognize that the word evil is frequently used in a defensive manner. I am not reassured in the least that throngs of people who feel confident about the legitimacy of their own use of the word will jump forward to declare that they are referring to real evil when they use the word. We both know how defenses work. None of this is to say we shouldn’t speak about evil, but it helps if we use the word when we know who we are addressing and that we are reasonably assured that the listener will understand where we are coming from. Failing this there is a high risk that we will be dismissed as just another defensive moron who calls every unwanted, projected part of his or her primitive world ‘evil.’ If we really want to discuss evil and be heard, it might be better at times to explain what we mean rather than use a linguistic short-hand that might actually mislead people. It is, after all, the substance rather than the package with which we should concern ourselves.
I would also raise a practical question here. What value is there in using the word evil to describe what occurred in Virginia? Of course it was an evil act. Paradoxically, anyone who needs the word evil to recognize it as such will probably not recognize it as evil no matter what word is used. I fear, however, that much of the concern about whether the word evil has been used enough to describe this event arises not from a pure desire to reckon with evil so much as it arises to from the inclination to use this event defensively… to locate evil decisively and finally outside oneself. That may not be true for everyone (I certainly see the killings as a manifestation of evil), but I know people well enough to know that many people rely exclusively on scapegoats for expiation of sin. That the scapegoat in this case is actually guilty makes it all the more effective a vehicle for the defensive expiation of guilt. That is not consistent with my Christian understanding of how to deal with sin.
Which leads to another question: why is the word ‘sin’ avoided and why don’t more people complain about the avoidance of that word? I’ll spare you another essay and say, simply, that I think it is for the same reasons that some people are careful about when, where and how they use of the word evil. It may not be because they don’t believe in sin, but many of us know how frequently it is merely used in the course of defensive operations.